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Kyle Francis Stewart

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    Dallas, TX
  1. Polly, the raw, tea plant (camellia sinensis) is very distasteful, and there is a very good reason for this! The caffeine and other chemical components in raw tea are very bitter and ward off insects. When the tea leaves are processed - ie., allowed to wither, which creates a limp supple leaf; rolled to break the cell walls; oxidized if the tea is an oolong or black; and finally fired - an amazing transformation happens! With careful handling and timing by an experienced tea master, the raw leaves protective bitterness and astringency transform into smoothness, briskness and complex flavor profiles. While travelling in Northern Thailand several years ago, I experienced a Burmese tea salad also known as la-phat, lephet, or laphet. The salad was marinated in a rice vineagar and very delicious! But after consuming two large bowls of it, I couldn't sleep for two days! Since one is eating the leaves, the amount of caffeine is high and I now know my limit is one bowl! At the time, I thought the tea leaves were raw, but I have since learned they are steamed for about 30 minutes. Because of the heat and the marination from the vinegar, the bitterness and astringency of the raw tea leaves were transformed into something very pleasant. Polly, I would also be very interested in hearing about a culinary use for the raw, unprocessed tea leaves. Perhaps in cultures where bitterness is more prominent in the cuisine - for example, in China with their bitter melon - raw tea leaves may be used? Thank you for your question!
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